MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Many years ago, I reviewed the 1997 documentary The Long Way Home. That film told the story of Jewish survivors of concentration camps who were first moved to refugee camps before encountering countries who were not interested in providing safe harbor. Their experience of liberation was more like moving from one prison to another; such is the experience of refugees today.
His House tells a contemporary story of Bol (Dirisu) and Rial Majur (Moskau), who escape the tribal warfare of the South Sudan to find a safe sanctuary in government housing near London. As they travel across the ocean in an overloaded little boat, their daughter drowns. This loss haunts their dreams.
But hope is on the way. They have finally arrived safely and will receive help. But there are conditions. There are strings attached. At their initial meeting, they are brought up to speed: “You will be subject to certain conditions. You will be reviewed, and must report to us weekly. You must not miss a single report. You will be given financial weekly support of £74 in total. You do not have permission to work or to supplement your earnings by any other means. You will be sent to a home of our choosing. You must reside at this address. You must not move from this address. This is your home now.”
As the Majurs try to adjust to their new house, they not only discover a building filled with rot and vermin, but also a place teeming with horrifying visions and spirits capable of guiding them to dark places. If they stay in their new accommodations, there seems to be no end to their torment. If they return home, they will likely face death.
This is a film filled with the big scares of their possessed tenement building, combined with daily scenes of the small indignities of microaggression, racism, and white privilege.
Yes, this is a ghost story with effective and unsettling shocks. As I watched the Majurs fight their demons, I was reminded of the hundreds of refugees to the United States who must constantly seek a way out of their darkness.
His House is a noteworthy and timely film that ends in a way that is thought provoking and compassionate. If you can tolerate a bit of discomforting violence, you may find your heart strangely warmed. This is a small gem of a movie.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A haunted house film that intends to haunt your thoughts.
Two pitchforks: Extremely violent visions; the death of a child; PG-13 occasional swearing; deplorable living conditions.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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